When it comes to correcting wrongful convictions, it is not just a predilection or unthinking habit of prosecutors and state AG’s offices; it’s deliberate, official policy:
Prosecutors have long been frustrated by the seemingly endless appeals from inmates claiming innocence, many of whom were convicted on solid evidence. Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the attorney general appears to be trying to prevent an onslaught of legal claims by prisoners who have tenuous arguments. States want to make it nearly impossible for inmates to reopen their cases in federal court, which force prosecutors to retry cases in which they have already won convictions, he said.
“What they’re saying is, this guy had his chances. At a certain point the music has to stop, and a case just has to be closed,” Weisberg said. “We’re afraid that lots of people who were not unjustly convicted are going to be encouraged to frame their case as the injustice of the century.”
Leaving aside the problem that a wrongful conviction can hardly be termed a “win” for anyone by any sane person, it would nevertheless be fair to say that Mr. Weisberg should be gratified that state AG’s have largely succeeded in making it “nearly impossible” to obtain relief, whether the imprisoned party is innocent or not – a consideration Mr. Weisberg is specifically saying is irrelevant to the larger and more important issue of……prosecutor frustration.
Prosecutor “frustration” at having their errors corrected hardly seems sufficient justification for – well, not correcting them. But it seems that there are no arguments so morally impoverished that some of the nation’s public officials won’t make them. Lamentably, some of these public officials are actually lawyers, given the power to prosecute and imprison people. Or keep them imprisoned.
To weigh the specter of an innocent person rotting away in prison or experiencing the lifelong “collateral consequences” of a wrongful conviction against “prosecutor frustration” and come down firmly on the side of the latter bespeaks a pathology that defies description. The degree of solipsistic self-importance required dwarfs what might be found in people who could remotely be described as normal. I suppose it is possible that if you coddle and reward and favor and, as with unruly children, spoil otherwise normal human beings no matter what they do – as the system does with prosecutors – to the maximum possible degree over a long enough period of time you might wind up cultivating a pathology of this magnitude. But it seems as though this would require a concerted and unlikely effort by the nation’s judges. And you might have to throw in a few overblown academics like Prof. Weisberg.
Only then, it seems to me, could you possibly arrive at the current nadir, a “justice” system characterized by the abuse of power rather than the rule of law.